What can be said of a six year old band with more than ten studio albums under their belt? In the case of Car Seat Headrest, the outcome has been pure growth and development, and an insane buildup to their best release yet.
Throughout this twelve track experience, Will Toledo covers many themes that plague the minds of anyone that may be struggling to find their place after leaving the nest. These include indecisiveness, apathy, denial (as is stated in the album title) and depression. That being said, the real overarching theme is hidden between the surface level lyrics that are not technically the core of Will’s problems in life. The real issue is the level of self-awareness that Toledo possesses within himself that creates a negative perception of his peers and any activity that he participates in. In the song, (Joe Gets Kicked out of School for Using) Drugs with Friends [But Says This Isn’t a Problem] Will sings, “Last Friday I took acid and mushrooms I did not transcend, I felt like a walking piece of shit”. This verse reflects the theme perfectly in an effort to explain how the “smoke and mirrors” of the mind altering drugs are as plain as day. Other incredible lines include the nihilistic remark of “you share the same fate as the people you hate” and great imagery like “feeling empty as a car coasting downhill”, which are both featured on Drunk Driver/ Killer Whales. This is only few examples of some of the genius writing that plays into this album, and I would highly recommend reading the lyrics while listening in order to understand the message that is being conveyed.
From a production standpoint, Car Seat Headrest are notorious for keeping it grimy and lo-fi. On this release, it is apparent that efforts were made to keep that sound present but on a more minuscule scale, and it truly does work for the better. Instead of a constant low quality sound throughout each track like on previous records, the benefit of having a studio has allowed the band to pick and choose which parts should sound clear or distorted in order to provide better contrast throughout the tracks and softer moments during crucial lyrical parts.
Instrumentally and vocally, the band is all over the place. Will cycles through different styles of delivery whether it be belting, screaming, talking, or simply sounding nice for the chorus. Whatever the case may be, his intentions are direct and work with the instrumentation to create anything from a somber tone, all the way to the “fuck all” attitude that is displayed in some of band’s more intense finishers such as the ones on 1937 State Park and Unforgiving Girl (She’s Not An). One of the “secret weapons” that enhances the atmosphere on this album is the use of the organ synthesizer that harkens back to the sounds of late sixties and seventies rock. It gives a nice sense of originality to the emo-indie sound that the band has been known for in previous releases, and I would even go as far as to say genre defining.
Car Seat Headrest have come a long way in their short career as a band, and have already proven their capability in creating an ambitious piece both sonically and lyrically. Teens of Denial is an incredible coming-of-age album that centers around a heavy topic that not many could even begin to put into words. Luckily for us, we can just listen to Will Toledo and passively nod in agreement. My honest opinion of this album is a 9.5/10.